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Overseas Spectators Will Be Banned From Tokyo Olympics Due To COVID-19 Risks

This year's Tokyo Olympic and Paralympic Games will take place without any overseas spectators after organizers decided to ban international fans from attending the events over COVID-19 concerns.

The decision was made during a virtual meeting between the various stakeholders on Saturday.

"Based on the present situation of the pandemic, it is highly unlikely that entry into Japan will be guaranteed this summer for people from overseas," the Olympic organizing committee said in a statement. "In order to give clarity to ticket holders living overseas and to enable them to adjust their travel plans at this stage, the parties on the Japanese side have come to the conclusion that they will not be able to enter into Japan at the time of the Olympic and Paralympic Games."

The International Olympic Committee and International Paralympic Committee said they fully respect and accept the move.

"We have to take decisions that may need sacrifice from everybody," IOC President Thomas Bach said.

Overseas fans who purchased tickets for the upcoming Olympic and Paralympic Games will receive a refund. More information on the refund mechanism will be available in the future, according a statement.

Before last year's postponement, Tokyo organizers said they had sold roughly 4.5 million Olympic tickets to residents of Japan, with 970,000 for the Paralympics.

There were no detailed figures for ticket purchases from abroad, but Hidenori Suzuki, the organizing committee's deputy executive director of marketing, told the Associated Press that international sales represent 10-20% of the overall total.

There's widespread skepticism in Japan about holding the games. As NPR's Anthony Kuhn reported in January, public opinion is turning against the Olympics.

"A recent poll by national broadcaster NHK found that roughly 80% of Japanese think the games should be canceled or postponed," Kuhn reported.

Delaying the Olympics also affected the bottom line of organizers. Kuhn reported that costs jumped by 22% to around $15.5 billion, according to some estimates, which would make Tokyo the priciest games on record.

Japan, which has a population of 126 million, has handled the pandemic better than many other countries, with 8,700 deaths attributed to COVID-19.

The Olympic Opening Ceremony is scheduled for July 23, with the Paralympics set to start on Aug. 24.

Copyright 2021 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.